Twenty years ago a woman and her young son disappeared one cold and wet night in the midlands, on the back seat her youngest son, just a baby was dead. What happened to Natalie and Hadrian simply disappeared and the police investigation at the time soon ground to a halt. Retired Fran Harman and her partner Mark are asked to act on a consultancy basis to re-open the cold case. Eager to give their problem solving skills a work-out they agree and set off to work in the most unusual police building that rivals Downton Abbey.
It doesn’t take long for Fran and Mark to realise that they haven’t been given the full story, the man who commissioned them has been made redundant and the incumbent seems to be less than delighted to work with them. With a tiny team to work with there is more about the logistics of managing the investigation as they travel far and wide to visit those who worked on the case originally along with Natalie’s parents and others who provided witness statements. No sooner than they’ve started it appears that someone wants them gone, the question is who and why?
I soon realised that this is actually the sixth in the Fran Harman series so I’ve missed quite a lot of the back story, not that it seemed to matter. Fran and Mark are a likeable, friendly and competent pair of (former) officers even if some of the police force they have been sent to work with seem less than willing to be helpful. There is a lot of dialogue in Green and Pleasant land which took a while to get used to but came to the conclusion it is part of what makes the book feel as though it is a half-way house between a cosy mystery and a regular police procedural. There are no gory details in this book, anything too scary happens ‘off-screen’ and yet don’t be deceived, there is still plenty of complexity to the plot to hold the readers interest. It isn’t a pedestrian read either, there is plenty of action which especially towards the end had me willing everything to work out for the best. In some ways this book has a slightly ‘old-fashioned’ feel but it still manages to stay contemporary with details of Police Commissioner’s roles, recent ‘real-life’ investigations and use of modern technology.
I was impressed with Judith Cutler’s writing and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up more from this series to find out what happened to these characters before their retirement. If Green and Pleasant Land is anything to go by I’m sure there was an intriguing back story that you need the earlier volumes to discern.
I’d like to thank the publishers Severn House for allowing me a to read a copy of this book for review purposes ahead of the publication date of 1 April 2015.